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Ballet on film - what do you want to see?


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Hi everyone, I'm a former dancer, now a producer of ballet films. Our most recent production was Giselle from Dutch National Ballet, which we filmed in February and which will be released on Blu-Ray and DVD in the summer.

I'd like to ask you ballet lovers out there for your opinions! What do you want to watch, and how do you want to watch it? How do you see the future of ballet on film?

Personally I really love to see the behind the scenes stuff: dancers in rehearsal, talking about their roles, preparing for their performances.

I'd love to hear your opinions:

- do you prefer to watch full-length ballets or shorter pieces / highlights?

- do you prefer to watch on DVD or online?

- would you pay to watch great ballets / ballet documentaries online?

I hope you find this an interesting discussion and look forward to hearing your thoughts!

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You asked to let you know what we'd like to see on DVD. I'd kill to see Wheeldon's "Within the Golden Hour". Saw it performed by SFBallet and that would be my first choice of companies. It can be included in any group of ballets of your choice.

Giannina

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I've been hunting for a while for a complete "Theme&Variations" on video. For once, it's a lovely ballet, and probably my very first approach to Balanchine, back in Cuba. Then, I haven't had the opportunity to see it since I came to America, and I think I'm forgetting it... :blush: . At some point I had a couple of Youtube clips, one with Gelsey Kirkland dancing the lead, and some others from a recent staging in Havana, with Anette Delgado. Both are gone now-(the main suspect behind this, as usual, "The Powers To Be", AKA The Trust) :) . Now, I don't even know if Kirkland's, which I remember being amazing on that clip, was even recorded completely, but Delgado is for sure...This is what I'm working on right now. But to answer to the main query of the thread, I would definitely LOVE to get my hands on Kirkland's complete version, if it exists...

1-do you prefer to watch full-length ballets or shorter pieces / highlights?

2-do you prefer to watch on DVD or online?

3-would you pay to watch great ballets / ballet documentaries online?

1-Depending on the quality of the staging, the dancers, the Company etc...But generally speaking, I would go for full lenght.

2-Online, as I can carry on my small laptop in my backpack and usually watch them whenever I get the chance and get a wireless signal.

3-Yes.

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I'd love to hear your opinions:

- do you prefer to watch full-length ballets or shorter pieces / highlights?

- do you prefer to watch on DVD or online?

- would you pay to watch great ballets / ballet documentaries online?

I'm probably in a minoruty here but I definitely prefer full-length productions of classical ballets. Can never get enough of Giselles, Swan Lakes, Bayaderes, Raymondas etc. Provided the cast is first rate, of course. Right now we have a number of outstanding ballerinas whose best roles have not been released commercially or are tragically underrepresented in the market. Suffice to say that there's not a single full-length ballet with Diana Vishneva available on Amazon.com

I definitely prefer DVDs and am very unlikely to pay for anything I watch online.

Will definitely buy your Giselle when it comes out and would love to see more of the same type of titles.

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I would definitely LOVE to get my hands on Kirkland's complete version, if it exists...

The off-topic version:

To Cristian, yes, it definitely exists. It's a 1978 Live from Lincoln Center that featured a Les Sylphides, Don Q pas de deux, T&V, and the Firebird. The T&V is complete with an interview with Kirkland.

To 3minuteswest:

I would like to see an Ashton programme of some kind (Symphonic Variations, or Scene du Ballet - or ideally, the Sibley/Dowell ITV Symphonic Variations from the 70s), or how about a complete Daphnis et Chloe? Understandably, the RB may wish to release it under its own imprint, if it is separate from your endeavors.

I'm half curious to see the Royal Swedish Ballet's Pippi Longstocking, though that's a rather frivolous request... :)

emi

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Hi everyone, I'm a former dancer, now a producer of ballet films. Our most recent production was Giselle from Dutch National Ballet, which we filmed in February and which will be released on Blu-Ray and DVD in the summer.

I'd like to ask you ballet lovers out there for your opinions! What do you want to watch, and how do you want to watch it? How do you see the future of ballet on film?

Personally I really love to see the behind the scenes stuff: dancers in rehearsal, talking about their roles, preparing for their performances.

I'd love to hear your opinions:

- do you prefer to watch full-length ballets or shorter pieces / highlights?

- do you prefer to watch on DVD or online?

- would you pay to watch great ballets / ballet documentaries online?

I hope you find this an interesting discussion and look forward to hearing your thoughts!

Echoing others, I'd like to begin by suggesting we harvest what exists already: get anything that's ever been recorded for TV or film out on DVD/Blu-ray. This would include remastering all the Dance in America/Live from LC vids as well as European and Asian materials; also film rarities like the 1967 Italian-made (?) NYCB Midsummers. THEN get all the film that's at the LC Library on DVD. At least this way there would be no added production costs in addition to paying for the rights.

PLEASE don't tell me about the restrictions; I know them all. I'm dreaming here!

As a former dancer, behind-the-scenes stuff is not so interesting to me; of all performing artists, dancers and choreographers always seem to be the least prepared to articulate their processes for the camera (OF COURSE there are exceptions). Similarly, most interviewers seem unprepared or just too smitten with their subjects to ask any really interesting questions. I guess I'd be more interested if they were done well, not tacked on or conducted on the fly (i.e., between acts).

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This does not directly answer the question, but it needs to be said. I think the most frustrating experience of watching and ballet film happens when close-ups are made, it prevents you from seeing the choreography, kind of like if you would be listening to an orchestra playing a symphony, and I cut all the instruments for you to hear the flute... whole bodies interpret dance pieces.

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in light of the fact that NYCB's R+J was telecast as a Live From Lincoln Center production, it seems a good time to wonder what's happening, if anything, w/ the Lincoln Center 50 plans to produce commercial releases of the substantial store of programs in the center's vaults.

so far, however no specifics have been offered.

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What is missing enormously I think are ressources for the greater public to get to know and make sense of this great art.

Compare with music, at school we all learn what are a note, chord etc... we learn to play an instrument, even if only the basics, then on radio and TV if you want to go further than the pop-rock stuff there are a lot of ressources.

With ballet if you've not been luckily born in some educated family with an interest in dance all you can do is watch it and try to make some sense out of it by yourself. No surprise it is an art often looked at as elitist, some weird stuff from the past or outlandish avant-garde.

But the eye needs to be educated as much as the ear. I got my own insight watching Aurélie Dupont dance La Sylphide. She really looked like she was the music in motion, suddenly I found the whole thing immensely pleasurable and kept playing my recording of La Sylphide over and over. Before that I would only watch a ballet once in a while and mostly for the music, the rest looking to me like some additional decorating. I had eyes but couldn't see the beauty of the movement for want of education.

So what I would really really love would be educational programs that would familiarise us with ballet, like having a variation danced and then the basic steps explained, what they are supposed to express, some historical context to go along, interviews, all this can be made in a fun way, for children and adults alike.

It exists the same for music, with small scores being analysed etc... Why is there nothing about dance while companies around are craving for new public ? Or maybe they really prefer to stay confined in their own little world of the happy knowledgeable few rather than having to cater to the vulgar tastes of the main audience ?

Or maybe nobody would broadcast these programs of my dreams...

And to answer the original question I would rather go for full-length, on DVD (wich allows multiple viewings, I need more than one viewing to appreciate a production), and documentaries plus behind the scenes stuff would be great too thanks.

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I'd love to hear your opinions:

- do you prefer to watch full-length ballets or shorter pieces / highlights?

- do you prefer to watch on DVD or online?

- would you pay to watch great ballets / ballet documentaries online?

Find full length ballets, documentaries, behind the scenes programs more satisfying than galas.

Prefer dvds because: I would rather watch on a tv screen, of the flexibility of use and the feeling of adding to my collection.

Do watch online frequently (youtube) but wish the image was larger, resolution was higher, descriptions were more complete and the clips were longer.

Have paid to watch ballet online. The best option would be the possibility of a download that you could burn to dvd for repeated viewing.

Would pay to belong to a ballet dvd rental library operating like netflix. One does exist but not in my area.

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I vote for:

* Full ballets (which could be one acters) over galas

* TV - I absolutely detest having to watch ballet on a little (or even big) computer screen. Yuk. Give me a nice big & sharp TV screen in front of my cozy couch and coffee table. I spend enough time scrunched-up in front of a computer screen in the office. [No - neither do I enjoy cables that connect a computer to a TV screen, due to mostly-poor resolution. I'm a old-fashioned sort of gal who remembers the beautiful clarity of the old BETA tapes.]

* I wouldn't pay to see anything online.

p.s. I am also a figure skating fan and tried-out the "Icenetwork.com" subscription site a year ago to watch major skating events that were not shown on US television. It was a waste of money for me as there was constant freezing and other glitches (and I have so-called "high-speed internet" at home). Worse than that, I resented coming home from long days in the office over a computer and having to subject my eyes, back and psyche to more of the same on a teeny-tiny screen (to get the highest resolution). Why pay for torture? I am happy watching what may come on TV and await sharp, commercial-free DVDs from my European friends who can record off EUROSPORT.

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When I first discovered this site I said that what I wanted were educational DVDs and although I've learnt more and more through buying DVDs, reading here ,and going to live ballets I am with James on this.

I would love to see, say Giselle, with a choreographer on another track explaining the steps and why they were appropriately delivering the emotional charge etc etc. The music , the design. In big blockbuster DVDs such as The Lord of the Rings there is a director's commentary. I'm am convinced that a similar commentary on each ballet ( which could or could not be accessed at the whim of the viewer) would be invaluable.Reading RG and then looking at the ballets is great ,but a voice over commentary which one could access would be heaven.( Just being told that this step is a revoltade or a renversee and that it contibutes here because...... would be great).

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So what I would really really love would be educational programs that would familiarise us with ballet, like having a variation danced and then the basic steps explained, what they are supposed to express, some historical context to go along, interviews, all this can be made in a fun way, for children and adults alike.

About as close as you can come to your wish---there is a series by Frank Augustyn (Nat'l Ballet of Canada) where he tries to do just that in a series of nine half-hour programs, complete with an array of notable dancers. It is called 'Footnotes'

As to the original question---the older I get the more I appreciate watching ballet on DVD (on my HUGE screen)--no large heads in my view! The documentaries appeal to me, but having watched them once I rarely go back for other viewings. For this reason, I also do not buy movies on DVD---so---having them available online (even for a small fee) would appeal to me.

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I am also a figure skating fan and tried-out the "Icenetwork.com" subscription site a year ago to watch major skating events that were not shown on US television. It was a waste of money for me as there was constant freezing and other glitches (and I have so-called "high-speed internet" at home).

The two ballet programs I have paid for on the internet I downloaded to my machine and was given a limited time to watch them in. The advantage of this was you can watch more than once within the period. Have never tried streaming television and can imagine that that could be frustrating.

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Thanks for your reply cubanmiamiboy! May I ask - what sites are you currently visiting to get your ballet fix online? Or are you just watching clips on YouTube and other free sites?

I've been hunting for a while for a complete "Theme&Variations" on video. For once, it's a lovely ballet, and probably my very first approach to Balanchine, back in Cuba. Then, I haven't had the opportunity to see it since I came to America, and I think I'm forgetting it... :( . At some point I had a couple of Youtube clips, one with Gelsey Kirkland dancing the lead, and some others from a recent staging in Havana, with Anette Delgado. Both are gone now-(the main suspect behind this, as usual, "The Powers To Be", AKA The Trust) :bow: . Now, I don't even know if Kirkland's, which I remember being amazing on that clip, was even recorded completely, but Delgado is for sure...This is what I'm working on right now. But to answer to the main query of the thread, I would definitely LOVE to get my hands on Kirkland's complete version, if it exists...
1-do you prefer to watch full-length ballets or shorter pieces / highlights?

2-do you prefer to watch on DVD or online?

3-would you pay to watch great ballets / ballet documentaries online?

1-Depending on the quality of the staging, the dancers, the Company etc...But generally speaking, I would go for full lenght.

2-Online, as I can carry on my small laptop in my backpack and usually watch them whenever I get the chance and get a wireless signal.

3-Yes.

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innopac, out of interest, do you mind saying where you downloaded these ballets from? Were you happy with the quality?

The reason I am asking is that there is currently not much ballet available online to download or stream. As some other posters have said, a lot of people prefer to watch on a big screen with full DVD quality.

I am also a figure skating fan and tried-out the "Icenetwork.com" subscription site a year ago to watch major skating events that were not shown on US television. It was a waste of money for me as there was constant freezing and other glitches (and I have so-called "high-speed internet" at home).

The two ballet programs I have paid for on the internet I downloaded to my machine and was given a limited time to watch them in. The advantage of this was you can watch more than once within the period. Have never tried streaming television and can imagine that that could be frustrating.

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Thanks Waelsung. Your comments actually echo the same message that is coming back from DVD sales figures - ballet fans love to watch full-length ballets! No matter how many Swan Lakes are on the market, it doesn't seem to matter.

Of course this isn't a surprise to ballet fans, who want to see and compare different productions, different dancers, different ballet companies, etc. But it's often a surprise to the finance people!

Now if only we could get the control out of the hands of the finance people.... :bow:

I'd love to hear your opinions:

- do you prefer to watch full-length ballets or shorter pieces / highlights?

- do you prefer to watch on DVD or online?

- would you pay to watch great ballets / ballet documentaries online?

I'm probably in a minoruty here but I definitely prefer full-length productions of classical ballets. Can never get enough of Giselles, Swan Lakes, Bayaderes, Raymondas etc. Provided the cast is first rate, of course. Right now we have a number of outstanding ballerinas whose best roles have not been released commercially or are tragically underrepresented in the market. Suffice to say that there's not a single full-length ballet with Diana Vishneva available on Amazon.com

I definitely prefer DVDs and am very unlikely to pay for anything I watch online.

Will definitely buy your Giselle when it comes out and would love to see more of the same type of titles.

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Thanks Ray - well I know you don't want to hear the restrictions but of course there are some! For one thing, distributors are always concerned about putting out material that is not widescreen, not necessarily good 'quality' by today's standards. They feel that people want to watch in widescreen, surround sound, and nowadays preferably Blu-Ray. And apart from the rights, there are production costs of course - digitising / authoring for DVDs all costs money...

Interesting to hear your thoughts about behind the scenes material. I actually really enjoy that stuff, but as you say, the interviewee needs to be articulate to make it interesting! If you happen to see our Giselle DVD when it comes out (I'm not trying to plug it - much!) - I hope you will enjoy the interviews we filmed with the dancers. Rather than doing the usual 'on the fly' stuff captured outside the studio after class, we set aside some time to speak to the dancers properly. As former dancers ourselves, we're neither smitten nor unprepared about 'the life of a dancer' and tried to ask questions that would be interesting!

Hi everyone, I'm a former dancer, now a producer of ballet films. Our most recent production was Giselle from Dutch National Ballet, which we filmed in February and which will be released on Blu-Ray and DVD in the summer.

I'd like to ask you ballet lovers out there for your opinions! What do you want to watch, and how do you want to watch it? How do you see the future of ballet on film?

Personally I really love to see the behind the scenes stuff: dancers in rehearsal, talking about their roles, preparing for their performances.

I'd love to hear your opinions:

- do you prefer to watch full-length ballets or shorter pieces / highlights?

- do you prefer to watch on DVD or online?

- would you pay to watch great ballets / ballet documentaries online?

I hope you find this an interesting discussion and look forward to hearing your thoughts!

Echoing others, I'd like to begin by suggesting we harvest what exists already: get anything that's ever been recorded for TV or film out on DVD/Blu-ray. This would include remastering all the Dance in America/Live from LC vids as well as European and Asian materials; also film rarities like the 1967 Italian-made (?) NYCB Midsummers. THEN get all the film that's at the LC Library on DVD. At least this way there would be no added production costs in addition to paying for the rights.

PLEASE don't tell me about the restrictions; I know them all. I'm dreaming here!

As a former dancer, behind-the-scenes stuff is not so interesting to me; of all performing artists, dancers and choreographers always seem to be the least prepared to articulate their processes for the camera (OF COURSE there are exceptions). Similarly, most interviewers seem unprepared or just too smitten with their subjects to ask any really interesting questions. I guess I'd be more interested if they were done well, not tacked on or conducted on the fly (i.e., between acts).

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I agree with you Mireille - it's a fine balance. I remember years ago, working as a production assistant on ballet recordings from very prestigious companies. The directors at that time were not ex-dancers and you could see it. I remember being gobsmacked at watching the final cut of these productions - and seeing a close-up of Siegfried during a grand-jete..... a close-up of Aurora and the Prince, talking to each other during partnered pirouettes, etc. !!!

I do feel (and hear) that the DVD audience does want to see the faces of the dancers - especially when they're acting.

And of course in the defence of directors who've sometimes cut to close-ups at strange times - sometimes it's the only shot you've got available! (cameras out of focus, tape machine has gone wrong, etc.!)

This does not directly answer the question, but it needs to be said. I think the most frustrating experience of watching and ballet film happens when close-ups are made, it prevents you from seeing the choreography, kind of like if you would be listening to an orchestra playing a symphony, and I cut all the instruments for you to hear the flute... whole bodies interpret dance pieces.
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James, you make a very good point and I think the answer, sadly, is exactly as you suspect - broadcasters all too often write off ballet as something old-fashioned and only for a very small audience. Why they have never come to this conclusion about opera is amazing and testament to opera's success at marketing itself, where ballet has failed!

We are hoping and trying to produce some programmes along the lines of what you are seeking. Whether you are a newcomer to ballet or have been immersed in it all your life, it is fascinating to watch dancers, choreographers, ballet masters, explaining the art form. Have you see the programmes Makarova made along these lines?

The problem with ballet is always this idea that it's a niche market that's so small, it's not worth bothering with. IMHO that's nonsense - 'dance' is having a great resurgence at the moment and there's no reason why ballet can't join in.

What is missing enormously I think are ressources for the greater public to get to know and make sense of this great art.

Compare with music, at school we all learn what are a note, chord etc... we learn to play an instrument, even if only the basics, then on radio and TV if you want to go further than the pop-rock stuff there are a lot of ressources.

With ballet if you've not been luckily born in some educated family with an interest in dance all you can do is watch it and try to make some sense out of it by yourself. No surprise it is an art often looked at as elitist, some weird stuff from the past or outlandish avant-garde.

But the eye needs to be educated as much as the ear. I got my own insight watching Aurélie Dupont dance La Sylphide. She really looked like she was the music in motion, suddenly I found the whole thing immensely pleasurable and kept playing my recording of La Sylphide over and over. Before that I would only watch a ballet once in a while and mostly for the music, the rest looking to me like some additional decorating. I had eyes but couldn't see the beauty of the movement for want of education.

So what I would really really love would be educational programs that would familiarise us with ballet, like having a variation danced and then the basic steps explained, what they are supposed to express, some historical context to go along, interviews, all this can be made in a fun way, for children and adults alike.

It exists the same for music, with small scores being analysed etc... Why is there nothing about dance while companies around are craving for new public ? Or maybe they really prefer to stay confined in their own little world of the happy knowledgeable few rather than having to cater to the vulgar tastes of the main audience ?

Or maybe nobody would broadcast these programs of my dreams...

And to answer the original question I would rather go for full-length, on DVD (wich allows multiple viewings, I need more than one viewing to appreciate a production), and documentaries plus behind the scenes stuff would be great too thanks.

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whetherwax - your reply made me kick myself!

We had this idea for the Dutch National Ballet Giselle which we filmed earlier this year. The choreographers were very enthusiastic but because it was a premiere, and everyone had such exhausting schedules, it wasn't possible in the limited time we had.

It's a really good idea and we hope to make the time with the next film we make!

When I first discovered this site I said that what I wanted were educational DVDs and although I've learnt more and more through buying DVDs, reading here ,and going to live ballets I am with James on this.

I would love to see, say Giselle, with a choreographer on another track explaining the steps and why they were appropriately delivering the emotional charge etc etc. The music , the design. In big blockbuster DVDs such as The Lord of the Rings there is a director's commentary. I'm am convinced that a similar commentary on each ballet ( which could or could not be accessed at the whim of the viewer) would be invaluable.Reading RG and then looking at the ballets is great ,but a voice over commentary which one could access would be heaven.( Just being told that this step is a revoltade or a renversee and that it contibutes here because...... would be great).

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